Getting started with the Azure IoT Central Rest API

Azure IoT Central is a SaaS platform for IoT projects.

If you are looking for a way to manage and monitor your IoT devices outside the Azure Portal or are not able to build your own IoT platform, IoT Central is the place to be. And you can extend this portal with custom Azure resources using the export functionality.

All you need is to have browser access to Azure IoT Central. You can even run it for free for seven days to test it out. Also, the first two devices registered are free too.

Once you have worked with Azure IoT central, you have mastered it using the portal. If you want to scale up eg. the number of devices or users, automation of your tasks becomes necessary.

For this, Azure IoT Central offers a Rest API.

Let’s check this API out.

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Azure IoT Central bridge for The Things Network

During the last The Thing Conference back in January in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, I spoke with the team of Tektelic. I got this smart room sensor from them to experiment with:


This sensor works with Lora and has some neat features. The sensor reads eg. temperature and humidity of the room it is placed in, but it also has a few other sensors. One of these is a magnetic switch.

It’s this sensor I am interested in. I want to see if a door is left open (and maybe putting a big, loud horn next to it…):

Today, I decided to connect this module to Azure IoT Central. For this, we use the Azure IoT Central Bridge.

I already blogged about this bridge where I connected to the Partical cloud. This time, I show how to connect to The Things Network cloud:

These are the steps we have to execute when connecting:

  1. Connect the Tektelic Room sensor to The Things Network
  2. Convert the byte array with data into a JSON message
  3. Setup an IoT Central App
  4. Setup the IoT Central Bridge
  5. Modify the bridge so it can handle TTN messages
  6. Setup a TTN webhook integration to the bridge
  7. Create a Device capability model for our room sensor
  8. See the influx of telemetry in IoT Central

Yes, there are a lot of small steps to perform. But I did the heavy lifting for you so it should be easy to follow.

Let’s see how to detect if a kitchen door is left open…

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Sending telemetry from IoT Edge to IoT Central

After writing my last post, I kept thinking about sending messages to the Azure IoT Central Bridge from Azure IoT Edge.

Eventually, I started building this IoT Edge module which passes incoming route messages to the IoT Central Bridge of your choice.

This module is now available in Docker Hub.

Use it in your IoT device with tag:

svelde/iot-edge-ic-bridge:1.1.0-amd64

Let’s check this module out.

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Bridging the gap from third party cloud to IoT Central

A few years ago I blogged about my open source project which makes it possible to connect The Things Network LoraWan cloud to Azure. It runs as a Webjob and provides a stateful bi-directional communication channel so devices from the third party (TTN) cloud are automatically registered in your IoTHub, can communicate their messages to the Azure cloud and they can receive commands back.

Recently Microsoft announced their generic bridge between third party IoT clouds for IoT Central. It is called: IoT Central Device Bridge.

Basically, it supports all cloud services which are able to send device telemetry to a REST endpoint.

Let’s check out how it works.

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Tracking the location of your IoT Central devices

Recently IoT Central added location tracking.

In the past, it was already possible to add a location to your IoT Central devices. And these locations were shown on a map. But these locations were fixed, part of the device template properties. So it was only present in the metadata.

But now we can pass a location in the telemetry which is produced by your device.

Let’s see how it’s done and how the location is integrated into the various IoT Central dashboards.

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Connection a cheap ESP8266 to Azure IoT Central

IoT Central supports multiple devices at this moment if you start a new IoT Central application:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • MXChip Developer kit
  • Windows 10 IoT Core device

iesp-05

But what if you have other types of devices you want to connect?

Luckily, Microsoft offers help in the form of a GitHub repository. These you find the source code for the devices shown above and several other devices.

This repository is a great way if you want to start connecting with IoT Central with:

  • ESP32
  • ESP8266
  • MBED OS 5.X+ basic example
  • HTTP Only

If your device is not shown at the top of this list, you can fall back on HTTP only as long as your device is capable of executing REST calls.

In this blog, we check how well the cheapest device is supported. This is the ESP8266. You can get an ESP8266 for less than three dollars so this is a fun and easy way to start using IoT Central.

nodemcu-lua-cp2102-1

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Manipulate IoT Edge Module twin using an Azure Function

We use IoT Central a lot for demonstration purposes. It provides an IoT Dashboard for your IoT devices on a SaaS level. It brings speed into the projects and we can have good discussions about usability with customers.

Recently, I had to add some buttons in IoT Central to manipulate an IoT Edge device. At this moment, IoT Central is not supporting IoT Edge devices but it can be done with a simple trick. So displaying information is not that hard. But sending module twin changes back to the IoT edge is not simply done.

In this blog, I show how to program IoT Edge module twin updates using c#. I use Azure Functions to make this code reachable from other sources like IoT Central.

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Connecting simple devices to IoT Central

Once you start collecting data in an IoT solution, you will need some kind of dashboard to represent the raw or aggregated data.

IoT projects typically start as a POC to validate IoT scenarios. When the POC success, a pilot project is started to check scalability, monitoring, maintainability, etc.

Microsoft provides multiple solutions for these various scenarios. The most lightweight solution is IoT Central.

Experience the simplicity of SaaS for IoT (Internet of Things), with no cloud expertise required—Azure IoT Central is a fully managed global IoT SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution that makes it easy to connect, monitor, and manage your IoT assets at scale. Bring your connected products to market faster while staying focused on your customers.”

You can start with a 7-day trial or with pay-as-you-go. This last option is free if you limit yourself to 5 actual or simulated devices.

At this moment, Microsoft has examples for the Raspberry Pi, the MX Chip IoT Devkit and Windows 10 IoT Core.

But what if you want to connect your own device? Is this simple to do too?

Let’s check this out.

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